Remembrance Day 2019

“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
John Diefenbaker

Picture of my father in his Legion dress coat proudly exhibiting the Legion crest, tie on and standing at the back of the SUV.  In the caption "Dad on his way to the Legions Remembrance Day celebration
Dad on his way to the Legions Remembrance Day celebration

This is Remembrance Day, that one day a year where we collectively commemorate and honour those who have fought or fallen for the great country of Canada. This year feels very different and it saddens me. I have heard many people this year tell me that the veterans are all dying off, as if age defines a veteran. The only thing age has a role in Remembrance Day is the acknowledgement of what conflict they fought in.

My dad and his peers fought in Europe during World War 2 but I know others who served in Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 or the Libyan intervention in 2011. Age does not decide a veteran. A Canadian committed to all things Canadian does so even when it involves taking up arms for those unable to defend themselves. .

Many years ago people left the farm or the mining industry in Manitoba to stand up for the Canadian way. They left the wheat fields and potash mines of Saskatchewan to represent the ideals of Canadians. They left the logging and fishery industries of BC to take the diversity of Canada to stand against the rise of fascism in Europe. Teenagers were leaving the manufacturing lines and mining industries of Ontario bringing the diversity of Canada to help stranger from being slaughtered thousands of miles away. Thousands left good forestry jobs or the ranks of longshoreman from Quebec’s St. Lawrence Seaway to stand in unity and proudly display the compassion that the world know was Canadian. They left the fisheries and shipyards of the Maritimes as part of the diversity that has made Canada the pride of the world.

Many also left these diverse and fertile lands as peacekeepers. Canada had international attention as a strong contingent of blue beret clad peacekeepers. They helped maintain order during civil unrest in many parts of the world. Of just over 125,000 peacekeeper’s Canada has lost approximately 130 veterans. Even during times of peace the diversity and compassion of Canadians rose to the surface and stood out to help the world.

Jacob Wiens, military head stone with a vase of poppies with a small Canadian flag in front of it.  Captioned "RIP Dad"

Canada has always been there for the world. Canada has always been diverse and compassionate. as a Canadian I am here, as was my father, for others. That is what Canada does, we extent a helping hand. Our strength is in our diversity and acceptance of others. The world knows that about us but it is being eroded.

I took the time in my life to live in other areas of our great country and build a better, more inclusive, understanding of exactly what Canada is. I was born in Manitoba, grew up in Alberta, lived and worked in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Before retiring I spend the last twenty years of my career living in BC but upon retirement I returned to Calgary. Calgary has always been home and I’m proud to be Calgarian. However with the hate and bigotry I see growing in Alberta it is becoming increasingly difficult to be proud.

We are a diverse nation and we should be proud of that. On today of all day’s we should be celebrating those brave individuals that went off to strange lands to defend a concept that was really alien to so many receiving the help. The world respected us and we respected ourselves. People like my father fought, worked and grew a family of proud Canadians.

We are proud Canadians because of the time and effort dad put into helping build this nation. He would never have used that energy to help grow those things he fought against, a nation intent on tearing itself apart. He was a proud vet who was there to help pick you up, not kick you down because you may have been marginalized in some way. He was there to extent a hand of friendship and provide assistance (he spend years as a scout master and that was his creed). It was never his intend to drag people down with the type of hateful rhetoric we see spewed today by so many self serving politicians.

I am proud to be Canadian and I am proud of our diversity. I know if my father were alive today he would be disgusted. The words “I didn’t fight for this” echo in my mind because I know that’s what he would be feeling. If you are truly a proud Canadian make everyday Remembrance Day and think about what got us here. To all of those vets out there, young or old, I salute you…AND LETS KEEP CANADA ALIVE!

As Bullying Blossoms to Hate

“I would rather be a little nobody than to be an evil somebody” – Abraham Lincoln

Plain text box reading "Terrible things are happening outside...poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes.  Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated.  Children come home from school to find their parents have disappeared" Quote by Anne Frank, January 13, 1943." Captioned by me "Don't let your silence allow this to happen again"
Don’t let your silence allow this to happen again.

At what point do we move from an act of bullying to an act of hate? I would suggest that when we reach that point where malice and violence are a part of the inherent act then we have crossed into the territory of hate. We can generally work past the act of bullying but once in turns to hate we are stuck. We can choose to be a bully but we are “taught” to hate, it’s just easier to convert a bully into a hater.

We recently marked the one year anniversary (October 27, 2018) of the unimaginable attack on the innocent gathering at the Tree of Life synagogue. That attack on the synagogue was an act of hate and cannot be disguised as anything else.

Today they gather in Winnipeg to mark the death of three-year-old Hunter Haze Smith-Straight. A little boy who paid the price because someone had such a hate on for the child’s mother that the attacker saw this as an acceptable reaction.  Meanwhile we continue to normalize this kind of behaviour by electing people with long histories of bullying. I stopped watching the federal Question Period years ago due to Bulldog Baird and the smooth talking bitterness of Jason Kenney. If the adage “lead by example” is still applicable god help Alberta because democracy won’t.

Just recently, following month of bullying, Devan Bracci-Selvey was stabbed to death in front of his mother who was there to pick him up from school. This young fellow had been enduring bullying for months, bullying the school reportedly was aware of. Why do our institutes normalize this under the guise of “we are doing everything we can”? But then why do we normalize it by pretending these are exceptions and not the rule. Sorry it’s becoming the rule, people just don’t like to read about those things, it’s uncomfortable.

You want to know what is uncomfortable, four year old, Quinn Ross, being told by a stranger that “she shouldn’t have been born” and that she was a “drain on society”. What’s uncomfortable is the pain her mother and her 10 year old brother must have been feeling as this was screamed at Quinn. How else do you expect a 4 year old with Perthes disease to feel?

Plain text box reading "When decent behaviour towards disabled people is deemed extraordinary, you need to re-evaluate how you're conditioned to treat disabled people in the first place"

I know lots of kids with Perthes when I was growing up in the Children’s Hospital, next to polio it was probably the second largest demographic of kids in the hospital. She was so traumatized she now would rather deal with the pain of walking on disintegrating hip joints than being seen in her wheelchair. Mom reported this to the school immediately but what is becoming of this world. We keep electing “bullies” to positions of power then scratch our head when a case of bullying takes place.

I could go on with a long list of like minded issues but why.

At what point do we move past this whole “bullying” game and acknowledge the growth of hate taking place in our country. Hate is growing and, in my opinion, promoted in Alberta. I have experienced it. On Thursday October 17, 2019 I was dumped out of my wheelchair by two guys I have no doubts were “Proud Boys” white nationalists. This wasn’t late at night or in a sleazy back alley. It was 12:30pm in the middle of a Calgary park (Barb Scott Park) and these two idiots took exception to my disagreement on their apparent political hero, Andrew Scheer. This wasn’t bullying, it was a plain act of hate because they could.

It really starts to get to me when good people that I know (and probably many I don’t) skip over these types of stories because they are “depressing”. Yes they are depressing but ignoring them does not solve the problems of bullying and hate. Ignoring them so you can feel comfortable just contributes to the problem. I know too many people that like to believe these things don’t happen because to use avoidance is easier than to challenge the behaviour. Ignoring these issues is like pumping the bellows that keep the heat going.

I have friends tell me I shouldn’t have confronted these two dudes in the park, that I under-estimated the potential for danger. That’s not me. I will not turn my back on ignorance, racism, bullying or hate. Remembrance Day is a week away and I know my father fought in WW2 for the right to live freely without fear in Canada.

My dad or any of his buddies (many did not come home) did not have the luxury of deciding when and where they would take on a battle. I have been actively fighting bullying behaviour and hate for many years, I won’t stop now. I do have to wonder, at times, is anybody listening? I asked this same question eight years ago around this same time of year. Things are getting worse, not better. It may be painful but friends get your head out of the sand, quit falling for dog-whistle politicians and start speaking up.

We are experiencing political sepsis in this province and I am about to start inoculating people…